Road Trip Activities for Toddlers Ages 1-4: Best Products, Tips, and Hacks
The infant phase is over, which means your little one is probably much more active and on-the-go. Likewise, you can no longer count on them sleeping away an entire long haul road trip like they did when they were babies. Before dreading your upcoming family adventure, however, read here to find the absolute best road trip activities for toddlers ages 1 – 4 years-old to help keep them entertained while on the road.
The article will take a look at the best road trip activities for toddlers that range from independent play, media and music, parent involvement, and quiet time. By using a combination of these activities and planning them out ahead of time, you are guaranteed to have a more happy and stress-free road trip with your toddler.
The links on this road trip activities for toddlers post are Amazon affiliate links. If you click on the links and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Road Tripping with Toddlers- The basics
Before we get into the best road trip activities for toddlers, it will be helpful to review our top tips for mastering a family road trip! Likewise, if your toddler is still rear-facing in his/her car seat, be sure to equip your vehicle with a crash-tested, shatterproof car mirror that can be used to keep your toddler in view.
If your toddler uses a pacifier, save yourself from having to strain to reach it should if fall from their mouth. Instead, you most definitely need to use a comfortable and washable pacifier clip to attach the pacifier to his/her clothing.
And last, if you happen to be taking a road trip during the process of potty training your toddler, the most essential item to bring along is a portable potty chair. Select a travel potty chair that takes up minimal space and has an inner container that is easy to empty and clean.
By attending to these road trip basics, you are more likely to experience a successful, fun-filled family road trip!
Road Trip Activities for Toddlers – Independent play
Ideally, the majority of your child’s time during a road trip will be spent participating in independent play. The reality is, however, that toddlers are not good at entertaining themselves, nor do they have a long attention span. In addition, toddlers are not used to being confined to their car seats for multiple hours on end.
These road trip activities for toddlers are the perfect solution to keeping your 1-4 year-olds engaged in independent play for as long as possible. Keep the toys and activities stored out of sight from your child, and introduce each one one at a time. Do not introduce a new toy or activity until boredom has struck or your child is no longer showing interest in the original activity given to them.
Here are my top picks for independent play road trip activities for toddlers. Selection criteria include:
- Age-appropriate (1-4 years-old)
- No small parts (choking hazard)
- Fun and colorful
- Lap size or smaller
- Affordable and reusable
Books and Electronics
Along with independent play activities, books and electronics are another great way for toddlers to entertain themselves. Though their use may require a little help from an older passenger, books and electronics can be used over and over again during a long haul road trip.
The best books for toddlers are board books or other books with thick pages that little fingers can turn. Books with sound provide added excitement, while Seek-n-Find books will stimulate your toddler’s thinking and provide the most longevity.
Electronics, on the other hand, should be light, portable, age-appropriate, and not have any sharp edges. It is best for your toddler to be somewhat familiar with how to use the device before expecting them to know how to use it in the car. Not understanding how to use a hand-held electronic can lead to meltdowns and added stress.
Here are my top picks for books and electronics that make the best road trip activities for toddlers.
Additional toddler road trip tip: Though I am not a huge fan of giving my toddler my personal iPhone or tablet to use, they can definitely be used as a last resort. Toddlers will be delightfully entertained by looking through photos or playing their favorite games or music on “mom’s” personal devices.
Movies and Music
Sometimes a little screen time is necessary for everyone’s sanity, especially if your road trip is longer than 2 hours. In this instance, consider some screen time leniency and pop in a kid-friendly movie to pass the time away.
If your vehicle is not equipped with a built-in DVD player, purchase a portable DVD player(s) that can be mounted on the headrest facing your toddler. Similarily, download movies and shows from Netflix to an iPad and strap it to the back of the headrest with an iPhone or tablet holder.
The only downside is making sure the iPad stays charged, so plan ahead by bringing along an extra-long charging cable.
Last, if you have a favorite kids’ CD or a music playlist on your phone, play some tunes and let the kids sing along.
Food and Drink
Though it may sound silly, ‘snacking’ is definitely one of the best road trip activities for toddlers! Unfortunately, finding the perfect snack for kids on a road trip can easily become a science. Road trip snacks have to be easily portable, not too messy, not too crumbly, and somewhat healthy.
For some fun road trip surprises, consider buying spill-proof Good2Grow juices and squeezable yogurt, fruits, and veggies.
Additional toddler road trip tip: Put some Fruit Loops or Cheerios on a piece of string or yarn and make an edible necklace. When your toddler is bored and hungry this will be a fun and tasty surprise!
Road Trip Activities for Toddlers – Parent Involvement
One of the best-hidden blessings of a family road trip is the quality time that you can spend engaging with your toddler. As you know, the absolute best way to keep them calm and content is to spend time interacting with them or simply smile at them and gaze into their eyes.
Fun road trip activities with toddlers can include playing “I Spy”, “Make Me Laugh”, guessing games, and counting games. In addition, singing songs, telling stories and jokes, and playing Peek-A-Boo are all excellent ways to engage with your toddler on a family road trip.
Road Trip Activities for Toddlers – Quiet Time
Let your toddler bring their favorite pillow, blanket, and stuffed animal on any road trip. When it’s time for an afternoon nap, stop and have everyone go potty before helping them to get cozy and tucked in. Limit noises from the radio and other conversation in order to establish that it is ‘quiet time’.
My favorite products to prevent your toddler’s head from bobbing while trying to sleep include a soft head strap, magnetic neck pillow, and pillows with neck support. Any of these products will ensure a much more restful sleep when on the road.
Road Tripping with Toddlers – Conclusion
Along with activities, add car sickness to your list of things to plan for your road trip as it can happen any time, at any age. Be prepared for car sickness by having saltine crackers and motion sickness medicine on hand.
If your toddler gets sick, have Ziplock bags readily available. In addition, pack paper towels to wipe their mouth, and a plastic grocery bag to tie up and dispose of everything in. After the mess is cleaned up, wipe the surroundings down with antibacterial wipes. The fresh scent will be a welcomed bonus.
Additional toddler road trip tip: Keep a narrow basket between the two front seats of your vehicle. Place ‘urgent’ items such as Kleenex, car sick bags, wipes, and paper towels in this easily accessible container.
If you enjoyed reading our best Road Trip Activities for Toddlers, click here to check out our Related Posts:
- Top 10 Tips for Planning a Family Road Trip (And Enjoying it Too!)
- 18 Amazing “Are We There Yet” Road Trip Activity Bags
- Top 16 Tips for Flying With Kids & Ways to Keep them Calm
- The Ultimate Guide for International Travel with Kids
- 8 (Unexpected) Benefits of Traveling With Kids
*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find our exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*